Talk about crazy emotions. It’s been over a decade since the last time I played through a Devil May Cry game to completion and I remember why I liked the first game so much…I played it on easy. It’s also the reason why I could never get through a Ninja Gaiden game regardless of how much fun I had hacking-and-slashing: it was just too difficult and I often times have a short-temper. Bayonetta falls in the same category. On its normal difficulty, it is an extremely challenging game that punishes you time and time again. If you play it on either of the game’s simpler difficulties, it becomes a walk in the park with only a few instances where you may end up actually dying.
For those who love challenges in the same vein as Devil May Cry and Ninja Gaiden, then Bayonetta fits in perfectly. On the other hand, if you’re short-tempered and don’t enjoy playing the same parts of a game multiple time until you get it right, then this is something that you should stay away from.
Which kinds of explains why Bayonetta may not have been that successful in the West. It’s a game for a very specific audience. Like “bullet-hell” games that certain people enjoy, if you don’t have the patience, then you will quit the game early on and move onto something more calming. If you ever thought this was a God of War game where the action sections are mixed with puzzle solving and traversing, you will be sorely disappointed.
While Bayonetta becomes too easy when played on a lesser difficulty setting, it is still a truly fantastic looking game that has a few problems, which can be overlooked.
For starters, the story makes almost no sense until you reach the game’s conclusion. It does a poor job on teaching you the backstory of most of the characters and even then, if you haven’t been paying much attention up to that point, you won’t care why anyway. There are some awkward checkpoint placements. Having a checkpoint occur before a cutscene is annoying. Yes, you can skip them, but that extra few seconds to pause the game and initiate the skip does become bothersome.
The game is also very much a series of boss battles; the areas where Bayonetta is walking around are merely there to get you ready for the next combat scenario. Thankfully though, the boss sections are incredible and always offer a challenge. Even the game’s ridiculously hard and long final boss sections are a sight to see. Watching these battles take place, combined with Bayonetta’s Witch time mechanic (which slows down enemies allowing you to dish out a non-stop attack for a brief period of time) is quite enjoyable and will have others watch along side you to see what might happen next.
There are also a lot of secret areas to find but do require you to go off the fairly linear path to find them. If you decide to stick to the path, you can go through the game only ever finding a handful of these secrets.
Again, those who enjoy challenging hack-and-slash gameplay will absolutely adore what lies in Bayonetta. Even if you ignore the story and simply focus on the plethora of different boss battles, what is thrown your way can be quite satisfying. On the other hand, even if you aren’t into that sort of thing, the game looks fantastic and controls really well. A couple of sections later on may frustrate you with some minor camera issues; outside of those areas, the only really frustrating part is the challenge that awaits you.
Looking back, it’s highly doubtful we’d see another Bayonetta game anytime soon. This style of game, while great to look at, does have a very small audience. Even with the name-recognition that both Ninja Gaiden and Devil May Cry have associated with them, not every gamer is willing to invest the effort required to complete them. Bayonetta released worldwide two years after both Ninja Gaiden II and Devil May Cry 4 hit store shelves and there were no other games to really compete against it (Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 was released a few months prior for PS3, but that was a re-release). The fact that it failed to manage to sell 2 million copies as a multi-platform release is a tad disappointing.
Another thing to consider is the game’s very Japanese way of doing things. There are some odd choices here and there. For example, the game’s last sections run much longer than they should. If you’ve grown up with the Japanese-RPGs of the 90s, then fighting the final boss multiple times is something you shouldn’t be surprised occurs here. On top of that, while not a knock on the game, would you ever see a Western-developed game end with a music video featuring the lead character? Probably not.
As mentioned in my first impressions of the game, considering Ninja Gaiden 3’s release earlier this year, the Devil May Cry reboot in the horizon and Platinum Games having two games on the release schedule for 2012, this is a great opportunity to pick up Bayonetta and give it a try, especially since it can be found for under 30 dollars in most places. Additionally, with the less than stellar response Ninja Gaiden 3 received from critics and fans of the genre, it only gives you more reason to track this game and experience what you may have missed two years ago.